It seems to have been a fairly quite week at the capitol. Only a few notable education bills were filed:
HB1076 – Requires the Dept of Education to count students being home-schooled as part of a school district’s average daily membership, which I’m assuming will keep at least a few school districts above 350 for a while longer. There are a few bills like this filed every session, and while I’m sympathetic to small schools and the towns they serve, I believe this is a slippery slope.
HB1134 – Continues the common spring break among public school districts. This has always been well-received, and this bill makes it permanent.
SB114 – Establishes the Arkansas Interdistrict Public School Choice Program – a rival school choice bill to the one filed by Senator Key, which I mentioned here last week. Senator Key’s bill essentially allows for open school choice. This bill allows the school districts to adopt their own standards for allowing transfers, and allows districts to seek an exemption for the State Board of Education if the school district determines that participation in the school choice program will violate desegregation orders or will lead to resegregation among schools in the area. The exemption could be granted for three years, but even during this time, students in an exempted district could transfer through a legal transfer or if the school district thought it was in the best interest of an individual student. Students denied a transfer could, of course, appeal to the State Board of Education. As I said last week, I still think waiting for guidance from the Eighth Circuit could be the best route to take, but at least this bill attempts to address the resegregation issue.
And outside of education, harm to an unborn child seems to be the hot topic:
HB1037 – Essentially prohibits abortions after 20 weeks of fertilization.
HB1098 – Amends the Child Maltreatment Act to include harm to an unborn child. This bill would require a medical professional to call the Child Abuse Hotline if he/she suspected a mother was abusing her unborn child through substance abuse (I assume tobacco use would be included….).
HB1100 – Prevents insurance plans offered on the health insurance exchange from covering voluntary abortions. It was my understanding that most plans don’t cover purely voluntary abortions anyway, but I could be wrong.